Issues Group meeting update

The Bighorn Long Term Issues Group met today in Lovell, Wyoming. This was the first meeting since Reclamation had received over 70 comments concerning the proposed Draft Operating Criteria back in January. While many in attendance, especially river and north-end lake advocates, had hopes that some changes in water management might be on the horizon, no one was surprised to discover that Reclamation had chosen not to act on any of the extensive list of comments at this time. Instead, we were again treated to hours of Powerpoint slides, and the promise of continued business-as-usual. The only bright note was that Reclamation indicated they’d look at ways to drop releases more gradually to mitigate bank erosion when reducing high releases after runoff. Let’s keep our fingers crossed. The reservoir is slowly drafting and every day there’s a little more storage available to contain what is shaping up to be a significant runoff. Let’s see what this operating criteria (that doesn’t need fixin’) can do in the coming months.

Flows to increase to 3,000cfs

With the lake elevation the sixth highest on record for this date, ample snowpack and a wet inflow forecast, its no surprise this message arrived a few minute ago from Reclamation: Inflows to Bighorn Lake continue to exceed our projections. To keep on-track with reaching a reservoir elevation target of approximately 3614 feet by mid-May, releases to the Bighorn River will be increased from 2,750 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 3,000 cfs later today. A special thanks to Area Manager Dan Jewell for his quick response to our inquiry. Also, this Saturday, the Bighorn River Alliance will be holding a river cleanup and would appreciate a few hours of your time. Plan on meeting this Saturday morning at 9am at the Bighorn Trout Shop, working the river for a few hours and fishing in the afternoon. The Alliance will also be hosting a barbeque at the Bighorn River Lodge (by Bighorn FAS) at 4pm and all cleanup helpers are invited. It should be great fun, and your participation is greatly appreciated!!

Fluctuation of Bighorn River Flow Downstream of Boysen Dam

The Bureau of Reclamation, at the request of, and in collaboration with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGF), has scheduled a flushing flow in the Big Horn River downstream of Boysen Dam, according to Wyoming Area Manager, John H. Lawson.The purpose of the flushing flow is to improve trout reproduction by flushing fine sediments from spawning gravels in the river. The flushing flow also improves insect production in the stream by opening up interstitial spaces between gravels and cobbles. The flushing flow is generally welcomed by anglers because it provides easier wading conditions. Following the flushing flow there is a reduction in floating algae. Flows in the river below Boysen Dam will fluctuate from 1200 cfs to 5000 cfs during the flushing flow. On Apr. 5 at 2:00 a.m., the release of water from Boysen Dam will be increased to 3000 cfs and further increased to 5000 cfs at approximately 7:15 a.m. for 10 hours before being reduced gradually back to 1200 cfs by approximately noon on Apr. 6, 2011. The public is urged to use extreme caution during this period of rapid fluctuation of flows below Boysen Dam.

Reclamation Selects New Manager for Dakotas Area Office

The Bureau of Reclamation’s Great Plains Region has selected Richard Long to serve as the Dakotas Area Office Manager in Bismarck, ND. He replaces Dennis Breitzman who is retiring.Dick brings a wealth of operations and management experience to the position from his 36 year Reclamation career, said Mike Ryan, Great Plains Regional Director. His depth of on the ground experience, his ability to communicate and collaborate, along with his vision, will guide the Dakotas Area Office into the future.Long began his federal career with Reclamation as an Agricultural Engineer in McCook, Neb. in 1974. He worked in Reclamation’s Great Plains Regional Office in Billings, Mont., for ten years, administering the Rehabilitation and Betterment Program, along with facility operations and maintenance programs. From 1987 to 1990 he was Water and Land Division Chief at the Grand Junction Projects Office in western Colorado. In 1990, he joined the Montana Area Office in Billings, as Chief, Water Land Division, and has held various positions since that time as a supervisor responsible for water and land resource management, facility operation and maintenance and dam safety. Before coming to Reclamation, Long worked for two years as a surveyor for a contractor on the construction the McClusky Canal in North Dakota. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Engineering from North Dakota State University in 1972.I look forward to working with the staff of the Dakotas Area Office to address the challenges and opportunities we’ve got before us to manage and develop water resource projects, said Long, who is scheduled to take over on May 8.The Dakotas Area Office is responsible for administering Reclamation programs in North and South Dakota. The office provides technical assistance and leadership in the responsible development and management of water resources to enhance the quality of life in both states.The Dakotas Area Office is headquartered in Bismarck, ND, with two field offices in South Dakota. The Area Office manages nine dams and reservoirs and a diverse array of programs and projects, including the planning, construction, and operation and maintenance of rural water systems. Other activities include contract renewals, irrigation development, water management studies and water conservation. Best wishes on the new job, Dick. Your hard work, patience, and understanding have been much appreciated!

2,750cfs is official

Its official. As of 2pm today, river releases were increased to 2,750cfs from 2,500cfs. Reclamation said:Due to warm temperatures melting low elevation snow in the Bighorn Basin, inflows into Bighorn Lake has increased to near 3,800 cfs. Snowpack in the Bighorn River Basin continues to remain above average. To control the rate of fill of storage in Bighorn Lake, releases to the Bighorn River will be increased.

Flows to increase to 2,750cfs

This good news arrived this afternoon, and was sent specifically as a message from Dan Jewell! Inflows to Bighorn Lake have exceeded releases for the past few days and this trend is expected to continue for awhile longer with the warmer temperatures we are experiencing. In order to keep on track with reaching a reservoir elevation target of approximately 3614 feet by mid-May, releases to the Bighorn River will be increased from 2,500 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 2,750 cfs within the next couple of days. Look for an update on this site as soon as an official water order change is received.

Flows to increase to 2,500cfs

Good news for the Bighorn River! Here’s the latest from Reclamation: Snowpack in the Bighorn River Basin is above average. The March water supply forecast indicates a need to increase releases in preparation for the snowmelt runoff. Today at 5pm, river releases will increase from 2,370cfs to the established minimum of 2,500cfs. Watch this site for details as the season’s runoff begins!

Bighorn Basin Snowmelt Runoff Forecast

The Wyoming Area Office of the Bureau of Reclamation in Mills, Wyo., has prepared snowmelt runoff forecasts for the Shoshone and Wind Rivers of the Bighorn River Basin, according to John H. Lawson, Wyoming Area Manager. The Mar. 1 forecast of the spring snowmelt runoff indicates above average April through July snowmelt runoff can be expected at all forecast locations within the Bighorn Basin in Wyoming.The Shoshone River portion of the Bighorn River Basin forecasted inflow to Buffalo Bill Reservoir during the April through July period is 780,000 acre-feet (af) (118 percent of average), compared to a 30-year average of 661,000 af. In the Wind River portion of the Bighorn River Basin, the April through July snowmelt runoff into Bull Lake Reservoir from Bull Lake Creek is expected to be 145,000 af (104 percent of average), and the snowmelt runoff into the Wind River above Bull Lake Creek is expected to be 450,000 af (112 percent of average). The forecasted inflow to Boysen Reservoir for the April through July period is 600,000 af (108 percent of average), compared to a 30-year average of 556,000 af. The Wyoming Area Office uses the most recent 30-year period (1981-2010) to determine average.

Releases to increase at Fresno Dam

BILLINGS, MONT. — The Bureau of Reclamation has increased releases from Fresno Dam to the Milk River to control the rate-of-fill of the reservoir and reserve storage for spring runoff.Releases were adjusted from 90 cubic feet per second (cfs) to approximately 180 cfs on Monday, February 28. The total release was increased to 280 cfs on March 1. Further increases may be necessary in the near future. Landowners and recreationists are cautioned to be aware of stage changes that may occur on the Milk River and at Fresno Reservoir

Afterbay repair work begins

Word comes from Reclamation that repair work on the Afterbay will be starting Thursday, March 10th.To allow divers to inspect the downstream side of the sluice gates, a 1-day outage on the Afterbay Dam sluice gates is scheduled for March 10, 2011. We can only imagine what wonders there will be to see during that dive!